MIFTAH: The vibrant canvas that is Palestine

Date posted: April 29, 2013
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Oppression can do strange things to people. When it is oppression in the form of a decades-long military occupation, it means the occupied people run the risk of becoming one-dimensional in the sense that the occupation is what defines them and shapes their past, present and future.

For the Palestinians, this is true to a large extent. Because the Israeli occupation consumes us, preoccupies our everyday lives and effects the smallest aspects of it, we find ourselves thinking mostly about this occupation and ways to resist it, do away with it, or at least work around it.

The thing is, the Palestinians are hardly one-dimensional. The fact that the occupation has taken over so much of our lives does not mean we do not have the potential to embrace other less discouraging aspects of life itself. In the past week, Ramallah – the hub of Palestinian cultural life – has seen Palestinian Fashion Week, the Contemporary Dance Festival and a Spring Festival for children. All of the above activities have been distinctly Palestinian but they were not solely catered to the traditional theme of occupation and oppression, which the Palestinians have grown so accustomed to and believe is the only way the world views them.

Read more…

Two Palestinian titles to compete at Cannes

EUROMED Audio Visual 

Hany Abu-Assad’s Omar at Un Certain Regard, and a Gazan short in the competition

Two Palestinian titles to compete at Cannes

Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad’s latest narrative feature film, Omar, has been selected for the Un Certain Regard sidebar section at the Cannes International Film Festival in France from May 15 to 26.

Omar, the tale of three childhood friends and a young woman who are torn apart in their fatal fight for freedom, is said to be the first film to be fully financed by the emerging Palestinian film industry. It stars Palestinian-American actor Waleed Zuaiter (American television series Homeland), and is reportedly produced by him and David Gerson for new American-Palestinian production company ZBros. German international sales agent Match Factory introduced the title to buyers at the last Berlinale’s European Film Market.

It’s Abu-Assad’s first time to be competing at Cannes, after the success of his previous narrative features Paradise Now in 2005 (three prizes at the Berlinale, European Film Award for Best Screenplay, first Palestinian nominee for an Oscar) and Rana’s Wedding in 2002 (Golden Antigone at the Montpellier Mediterranean Film Festival).

He thus follows in the footsteps of fellow Palestinian director Elia Suleiman who has attended the Cannes film festival multiple times, notably with Divine Intervention in 2002 (FIPRESCI Prize and Jury Prize), The Time that Remains in 2009 (Palme d’Or contender), and Seven Days in Havana, a film that he co-directed, in 2012 (selected for Un Certain Regard).

But there is even more good news for the Palestinian film sector. For the first time, a Palestinian film is to vie for the Short Film Palme d’Or this year.

Gazan brothers Mohammed and Ahmad Abou Nasser (also known as Arab and Tarzan Nasser)’sCondom Lead has been selected from 3,500 short films as one of the nine contenders for the world-famous award. The film, whose title is a pun based on the Israeli military’s name for the 2008 Gaza War, Operation Cast Lead, explores what becomes of ordinary passions between a man and his wife in the long interludes of a war’s heightened reality.

Condom Lead is the brothers’ second short after Colourful Journey and the first to be shot in Jordan. It is its lead actor Rashid Abdulhamid’s first production for Made in Palestine, as well as his and his fellow actress’ first time to act in a film, co-director Arab Nasser told Euromed Audiovisual by phone from Jordan.

The film’s idea and story was written by another Gazan filmmaker, Khalil al-Muzayen, whose DOCmed-supported documentary Gaza 36 mm, a film that notably stars the Nasser brothers, recently premiered in Beirut.

In 2011, the Nasser brothers told the Guardian that they had never watched a film in the cinema in their life. Now, less than two years later, their efforts are taking them to one of the most prestigious screening venues in the world.

“We have to go to Cannes,” Arab Nasser told Euromed Audiovisual. “It’s the chance of a lifetime!”

Alice Hackman

Picture: Condom Lead – Facebook page

Article appeared on EUROMED Audio Visual 

Palestinian Singer Gives Rare Concert in Gaza

Posted on April 30.

“I’m even happier than I appear.” With these words, Palestinian artist Reem Talhami began the concert to launch her first album in Gaza City, a place where musical concerts have typically been banned since Hamas came to power. She received warm applause from the audience, which swayed in delight to the beat of two songs that she sang from the new album, “Carried by the Night.”

The album features 10 songs. The lyrics were written by Gazan poet Khaled Jumaa, and Saeed Murad composed the melodies. Talhami sang these songs, which primarily aim to describe Gaza, she told Al-Monitor, “as we see it and as we hope for it to be, far removed from the news reports that only contain killing and destruction in this ancient city.”

Talhami noted, “The words of these songs are far removed from killing, destruction, war and bombing. They take you to a wider horizon and another space, filled with love and hope, as seen by the writer and as we all wish to see.”

Talhami was born in the Arab Israeli city of Shefa-Amr. She studied singing at the Rubin Institute in Jerusalem, where she currently resides, for five years, graduating in 1996. She has participated in a number of local and international festivals, singing songs that primarily express Palestinian heritage and nationalism.

On why she selected Gaza City to launch her first album, Talhami said, “In recent years, I’ve noticed that, whether intentionally or not, Gaza and Gazan intellectuals have been marginalized in Arab and Palestinian cultural activities. Through my participation in these activities, I found that Gaza was absent. So, through this album, I wanted to express my absolute rejection of this marginalization of Gaza City, a city I love.”

Since the imposition of the Israeli blockade, the Gaza Strip has been characterized by a state of cultural stagnation. This is due to the difficulty artists and intellectuals have faced traveling between the West Bank and Gaza through the Rafah crossing since the first years of the blockade. This is compounded by the pressures resulting from the political divide between Fatah and Hamas.

Talhami explained, “It was a great honor for me to be a part of this artistic work, which was in preparation for two and half years before now being revealed to the public. I am very proud of it. Although I wanted to record the album in a studio in Gaza, circumstances prevented us from doing that.” She described as “shameful” the West BankGaza political divide and lamented the inability of the Palestinian people, “who have confronted various challenges,” to force politicians to reach a compromise to restore unity between the two parts of the nation.

Those attending the Gaza concert, mostly youths, of both genders, swayed to Talhami’s songs at times and applauded at others. The joy was apparent in their faces.

Ahmed Rizaq, 21, was one of those in attendance, listening intently to the words and music and applauding warmly. He said to Al-Monitor, “I’m here so that I can live in the Gaza I want and desire. We have been lacking these types of cultural and artistic activities. My presence here and listening to the lyrics of Talhami’s songs helps me to confront the difficulties we face in Gaza.”

Rahaf al-Batniji, 22, agreed with Rizaq, and offered that it was the first time she had attended a concert with singing of this kind. These songs left a notable impression on her psyche, which has endured political and psychological pressures in her daily life.

Reem Talhami sings “Gaza Bitghanni”

She told Al-Monitor, “What we see and hear today is an exception. This is not the reality we live. Every time I’ve left the country I’ve made an effort to attend a musical concert. I’m amazed today to see a small concert in Gaza City.”

Since taking power, the Hamas-led government in Gaza has typically banned all private music concerts. They justify the ban by arguing that the concerts do not reflect the “customs and traditions” of the Palestinian people.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, Talhami directed a message to the government in Gaza: “Everyone must realize that goal-oriented singing is a means of resistance. Our battle today with the Israeli occupation is a cultural battle, not another type of battle.”

Following the concert to launch her album, held in the courtyard of the French Cultural Center, she said, “I think that differences of opinion do not undermine the entire cause. The Palestinian people are simple. They love art and singing. I think that it’s an integral part of our culture, which reflects Palestinians and is a part of the primary struggle.”

Hazem Balousha is a Palestinian journalist based in Gaza City. He has worked as a news producer for BBC World Service, as well as contributed to Deutsche Welle, The Guardian, Al-Raya (Qatar) and other publications. Balousha covered Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008 and the conflict between Fatah and Hamas in 2007. He is also the founder of the Palestinian Institute for Communication and Development (PICD) and has a master’s degree in international relations and a BA in journalism. On Twitter: @iHaZeMi

This article appeared in Al-Monitor http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/04/palestinian-singer-gaza-concert.html#ixzz2Rzs9RiWT


RIP Rabea

Sarah Irving writes a moving obituary sharing her personal memory of Palestinian actor Rabea Turkman ” Palestine always teaches one to seize the moment, because it really may never come around again. Rabea, you will be deeply, sorely missed.” RIP Rabea Turkman and may we have the strength to continue our “cultural intifada” until we attain our vision of freedom, justice and liberation.

Sarah Irving

A few hours ago the Freedom Theatre in Jenin put out this short statement:

The Freedom Theatre mourns the death of one of our graduated Acting School students, the brave resistance fighter who chose to replace the gun with the stage, Rabea Turkman. Under Juliano‘s guidance Rabea developed his talent as an actor and later as a stand-up comedian. Our thoughts go to Rabea’s loved ones at this difficult time. May you rest in peace Rabea, you will be greatly missed and you will always be part of The Freedom Theatre.


I had the privilege of meeting Rabea in Jenin in 2010. I first encountered him in the cafe behind Cinema Jenin in the city centre. He and one of his friends, also an actor from the Freedom Theatre acting school, were arguing over the respective merits of Brechtian and Stanislavskian theories of performance. Rabea’s argument was passionate…

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The Freedom Theatre Premier Our Sign is the Stone: The Story of Nabi Saleh

The freedom theatre 


Our Sign is the Stone is a production based on testimonies gathered from the village of Nabi Saleh. The play traces the political development of a young boy as his community organizes an extraordinary campaign against the Israeli Occupation.

The play attests to the struggles, sacrifices and steadfastness of Palestinian communities engaged in civil resistance against practices of land confiscation, ethnic segregation and racial discrimination.

Each performance will be followed by a Playback Theatre event, in which audience members will share their own stories of struggle against Israeli human rights violations.

Wednesday 1st May 4pm: Jenin Refugee Camp, The Freedom Theatre (Preview performance)

Saturday 4th May 3:30pm: Nabi Saleh, Community Hall (Premiere performance)

Sunday 5th May 4pm: Al Walajah, School Hall

Monday 6th May 4pm: Arabeh (Old City), Palace

Tuesday 7th May 10:30am (Women-only performance): Faquaa, Community Hall

Tuesday 7th May 7pm: Faquaa, Community Hall

Wednesday 8th May 4pm: Qusra, Community Hall

The Freedom Theatre dedicates this play to Mustafa Tamimi and Rushdi Tamimi.

For more information, please contact
Alia Alrosan: E: alia@thefreedomtheatre.org, T: 0599304523
Ben Rivers: E: ben@thefreedomtheatre.org, T: 0592902256


Our Sign is the Stone is a production of The Freedom Theatre’s Freedom Bus initiative. The Freedom Bus uses interactive theatre and cultural activism to bear witness, raise awareness and build alliances throughout historic Palestine and beyond. Endorsers of the Freedom Bus include Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, John Berger, Judith Butler, Maya Angelou, Mairead Maguire, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Noam Chomsky, Omar Barghouti, Remi Kanazi and Peter Brook. A range of other Palestinian and International artists, activists, academics and organizations have endorsed the Freedom Bus.

Email: freedombus@thefreedomtheatre.org
Web: www.freedombus.ps
Blog: freedombuspalestine.wordpress.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thefreedombus
Twitter: twitter.com/#!/FreedomBusPal

London Palestine Film Festival highlights the works of around 40 Palestinian and international directors – May 3rd to 15th

Source The Prisma 

London will get closer to Palestine from the 3rd to 15th of May thanks to the view of the Arab-Israeli conflict to be shown in the works of around 40 Palestinian and international directors taking part in the 14th season of this festival.

Through 38 films and more than 20 events, Londoners will have the opportunity to see the oppression that the Palestinian public are subjected to as well as the heterogeneity that can be seen within the country, through the various practices, genres and screenplays. Palestine’s representation of self is promoted through cinematic titles, from conceptual and experimental focuses of artistic innovation to realistic cinema about socio-political wars and social activism. In other words, they are tools to help society better understand life in Palestine and on the Gaza Strip.

Palestina Septimo 7The film screenings and other activities will be taking place in the Barbican cinema and at the University of London, where the lecture entitled“Palestine and the Moving Image” will be held.

Organised in collaboration with the Centre for Palestine Studies, part of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the event will bring together academics, film makers and film critics to tackle the broad range of aspects related to film, or by extension, to Palestine.

This festival, pioneering in the UK, will disucss the historical, ethical and social aspects which envelop Palestinian life, as well as the aesthetics and subject matter of the films.

Palestina Septimo 8The festival will begin on 3rd May with the screening of the film Life in occupied Palestine(1981), directed by David Koff long before the first uprising.

The feature film, through interviews and a notable process of historical documentation, is a profound portrait of the conflict which breaks out daily in Palestine and Israel and which shows how the Palestinian resistance is generalised and on the rise. The programme also includes the 25thAnniversary of the first uprising and will show Elia Suleiman’s first film, Homage by Assassination(Part of 1991 portmanteau The Gulf War … What Next?).

Palestina Septimo 4More than 20 films will premiere at this year’s festival including a documentary about life in the Syrian Golan Heights; Apples of the Golan, an impressive portrait of the importance of the comet on the Gaza Strip; Flying Paper, as well as some of the new film shorts about Palestine and beyond.

The festival will run from 3rd to 15th May at the Barbican Cinema and at the University of London.

For more information please visit:http://www.palestinefilm.org

(Translated by Frances Singer – Email: francessingerriveros@hotmail.com)

Defying all odds, the first Palestinian Circus School flourishes

By Henrique Dores – April 24, 2013

Palestine Monitor

Roll up, roll up – ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends and foes – please put your hands together and give your warm welcome to the unparalleled, the outstanding, the one and only Palestinian Circus School.

This could perfectly be the opening line of one of the shows of the Palestinian Circus School. Currently submerged in an ambience of red noses, big shoes, squeaky flowers, stilts and many other props, the Palestinian Circus School (PCS) began as a small circus group in August 2006 thanks to the determination of Shadi Zmorrod and Jessika Devlieghere, who initiated the pathway to introduce circus arts from Palestinians for Palestinians, amidst Israeli checkpoints and M-16 rifles.

The whole idea of creating the first circus school in Palestine was to provide an effective alternative to the massive effects that the Israeli military occupation has had over the lives of young Palestinians, particularly since 2000.

The stories of unlawfully demolished homes, personal humiliations at checkpoints, physical abuses and arbitrary detentions, together with accumulated grief of having loved ones killed by the Israeli military, constituted the sole motivation of the initial core group of the founders of the Palestinian Circus School. To them, too many young people were turning to the streets for an outlet, struggling to achieve nothing else than survival.

However, before becoming one of the most credited and successful Palestinian NGO’s, there were some bumps on the road. From the very beginning, the idea of creating a Palestinian circus school raised suspicions about its necessity. However, the general skepticism did not affect the initial core group.

Shadi Zmorrod was given the opportunity by the Belgian circus school ‘Cirkus in Beweging’ to start with a first intensive training course for young people living behind the Apartheid Wall. Further contacts were made in order to ensure training for the people who would be involved in creating the future circus of Palestine, through an intensive three-week workshop. The excitement about these first achievements can only be compared with the disappointment that took over the group when this first initiative was cancelled due to the outbreak of the Israeli-Lebanese war in 2006.

“We are engaged in showing our progresses in more places, and we are trying to start touring in many other places, like the south of Europe, where circus is still very alive”

Nevertheless, the resilient group persisted on the foundation of the PCS, and despite the lack of financial support, they managed to obtain the required training throughout the help of some Jerusalem circus students and later on, after launching an international appeal, from Italy, France and US circus professionals. This was the definitive step towards the birth of the first Palestinian Circus School, which would culminate with its premiere in Ashtar Theater, where an encouraging audience of 250 people applauded their effort.

Progresses and ambitions

The new premises of the school, which only became PCS’s home in November 2011, are inspiring. Located next to the Latin Church in the old city of Birzeit, the building and site was given for a period of 15 years free of charge by Dr. Hanna Nasir to allow PCS to develop to its full potential.

“When we first saw this place, we thought it was desperately needing some work, but also that it was the perfect place for the school,” says Jessica Devlieghere.

Indeed, the PCS has been constantly developing, and the two small circus training halls existing in the building brought the school to heights impossible to reach under the previous conditions. Currently teaching three levels of education in the art of circus (beginners, preparatory and professional), the Palestinian Circus School provides annual summer camps and open days in order to allow communities to get more acquainted with the goals and the approach of the school. Moreover, since its foundation, not only was PCS able to tour all around Palestine, defying checkpoints, borders and other movement restrictions, but also performed in Belgium, France, Germany and Italy.

When asked about the current projects of PCS, Jessica promptly replies, “I don’t like to use that terminology. We want PCS to stay away from the whole NGO’s way of thinking. This is an initiative from Palestinians to Palestinians and everything we do has a social impact.”

The merits of PCS are easy to identify. Operating in difficult scenarios such as Jenin, Al-Fawwar refugee camp, Birzeit or Hebron, the school has been distributing hope all around Palestine.

“At the moment we have more than 150 students,” Jessica says. “We present circus as a form of therapy, as an alternative to the hopeless lives of many youngsters.”

PCS has also been working together with Social Rehabilitation Center in Jenin, where they try to improve the lives of young women.

But the vision of the adventurers that made possible PCS is bigger than ever.

“We are trying to extend our field of action, so that more people have access to our initiatives,” Jessica explains. “We are engaged in showing our progresses in more places, and we are trying to start touring in many other places, like the south of Europe, where circus is still very alive. Another of our immediate goals is to provide a real circus tent on the courtyard, to allow the many disciplines needing lots of height and space.”

The Palestinian Circus School is flying higher than never, and the people involved are committed in keeping the same enthusiasm they had in making this project come alive. In a sea of disappointment, where bombs and aggression are the language used, the Palestinian Circus School emerges as a safe port to everyone willing to resist occupation with a smile on the face.


AlJazeera: Palestinians celebrate festival of dance

Away from the factional politics and the tensions, residents of the West Bank have been celebrating on the streets.

The second international dance festival in Ramallah has provided Palestinians with a rare chance to dance their woes away.

Al Jazeera’s Nour Odeh reports.

More from: Aljazeera English

Rana Baker responds to Dawber’s article in The Independent: Misconceptions Abound On Gaza’s Women, Politics

By: Rana Baker for Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse

Posted on April 25.

It has become commonplace when reading about Gaza to come across descriptions of it as an “Islamist enclave” or “Hamas-controlled territory” and so on. In case someone exists who does not know what Hamas is all about, commentators make sure their readers understand that it is the “fundamentalist” group bent on the “destruction of Israel” and nothing else.

The Palestinians of Gaza, therefore, are often categorized as either ardent Hamas supporters or suppressed dissidents, including women, who receive the severest treatment imaginable, not only from the Hamas government, but also from misogynistic and backward average male residents. Such categorizations are then followed by sweeping generalizations about each of these stereotypes. Whereas the Hamas supporters consist of “terrorists” and “bloodthirsty barbarians,” the dissents are seen as peace-loving minorities who seek neighborly relations with Israel, the occupying entity.

A recent example of such portrayals can be found in a feature story published in The Independent on April 13. In “Tales from Gaza: What Is Life Really Like in ‘the World’s Largest Outdoor Prison’?” the author alledges to provides “a small snapshot into life in Gaza.” Before he proceeds, however, he assures us that what follows are “testimonies” by people “who can rarely get their voices heard.”

At the start of six interviews, the author makes clear that all of those featured are men not because that was his intention — he is a Westerner who believes in gender equality after all — but because in his two and a half days in Gaza, he could not find a woman willing to speak to him “independently.” In fact, the only occasion when he had the chance to speak to a woman, he tells us, was in the presence of a male guardian, the woman’s husband in this particular instance. Hence, while he was able to “give voice” to men, his attempts to do the same for women were all thwarted.

Such assertions play into Orientalist notions. This usually results from foreign journalists coming to Gaza with a set of preconceptions about the place and its people and then seeking to confirm them rather than verify them. While Gaza is, indeed, no haven for women or anyone else, there are thousands of educated women who are willing to speak for themselves and do so in every field, from medicine, theater, and politics to fishing and farming.

Just a few months ago, a play written by the renowned Palestinian writer Samah Sabawi was read at one of Gaza’s cultural centers, which continue to thrive despite Israel’s ceaseless attempts at cultural de-development. Nearly all the participants who performed the play were women, as was the case with the vast majority of the audience. They were not accompanied by husbands, brothers or fathers in order to attend or to perform.

Events like this, however, hardly ever make it into the mainstream media. Moreover, any mention of a considerable number of women going out without a hijab instantly provokes expressions of surprise by those who have only heard about Gaza through mainstream and particularly Western publications. To say women in Gaza are also allowed to drive would sound like a lie to many ears.

Women are not the only part of this story. To claim that Gaza is “Islamist” automatically dismisses the existence of the leftist and secular groups there, most of which denounce religion in its totality. Homogenizing “life in Gaza” could not be more obvious than in The Independent feature.

Of the six interviews the author conducted, one was with a Hamas official, while four were with blue-collar male workers, and the remaining one was with an unemployed man. Despite being at odds with Israel, five of them belong to the category of “ready to forget the past,” has no problem inviting former Israel prime minister Ariel Sharon for coffee, and even views Yitzhak Rabin — the man behind the Iron Fist that broke hundreds of bone in the lead up to and during the first Palestinian intifada — as a man of peace.

With the exception of the Hamas official, the interviewees followed suit in reiterating the same unconditional desire to achieve peace with Israel that one might think no other viewpoint existed. At the same time, they viewed Hamas as the primary source of their distress. Israel was seen as only secondary to their everyday ordeal.

That no evidence was provided to challenge the views in question suggests that there is none — just as the author claims to have found no women able to speak to him. Thus, portraying the residents of Gaza as a homogenous people who all experience life in the same way is condescending at best and Orientalist at worst. The views expressed in the article are undeniably extant but do not reflect the reality.

Israel, which has launched two deadly assaults on Gaza in less than five years, is rarely perceived as a friendly entity. The vast majority of the politicized and non-politicized segments of Gazan society are not ready to “forget the past” that continues to shape the lives of 1.1 million local Palestinians officially registered as refugees at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Rana Baker is a student of business administration in Gaza and writes for the Electronic Intifada

This article appeared here: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/04/gaza-misconceptions-women.html#ixzz2RVnXaJdB

Showcasing Palestinian composer and musician Simon Shaheen

From The Province written by Stuart Derdeyn on April 23, 2013

Since arriving in New York City in 1980, Palestinian composer and musician Simon Shaheen has been instrumental in the development of Arabic music across North America.

A master of the Arabic lute known as the oud, the 58-year-old Catholic born in Tarshiha, Upper Galilee, Israel, grew up in a musical dynasty with father and siblings all actively teaching and performing.

He is a professor at Columbia University music school and his students are everywhere bringing Arabic music into jazz, rock, pop and traditional music.

His latest show is presented in partnership with the MOA exhibit Safar/Voyage: Contemporary Works by Arab, Iranian and Turkish Artists.

Titled The Call: Songs of Liberation, it takes folk songs from the turbulent 1950s and 1960s era that have been revived as anthems of movements in the Arab Spring and mixes them in with his own adventurous traditional/jazz compositions.

“Beginning about two-and-a-half years ago, when people began to take the initiative to live with pride, dignity and freedom in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere, there was a revival of this amazing music from the ’50s and ’60s post-colonial era that sounded like it was written yesterday,” Shaheen said.

“It was almost as if the era had been forgotten in the face of modern pop, but then it came back and I took it upon myself to research songs that came from these places and tour with it.”

Shaheen and his group took the show on the road in 2011 to great response. He was inspired to compose an accompanying piece titled The Call following a show at the Metropolitan Museum, where a statue was unveiled.

“This statue just became a metaphor for the Arab world at the time, somewhat stagnant and unmoving. But, I thought, if I played enough music, that it would start to dance and come to life like so many of these places were. So I composed a piece and then took it to dancer Cassandra Shore to choreograph.”

The local performance includes bass, flute, percussion, violin and oud with solo dance. It is unlike anything the composer has done before and he hopes to record the results later this year. He said that it feels right to move from tradition into something contemporary and reflective of changing times in the Middle East.

Read more from this article here including added details regarding his upcoming show.  Get a taste of his music in this video below.



TED Video Suheir Hammad: Poems of war, peace, women, power

TED Ideas Worth Spreading

Poet Suheir Hammad performs two spine-tingling spoken-word pieces: “What I Will” and “break (clustered)” — meditations on war and peace, on women and power. Wait for the astonishing line: “Do not fear what has blown up. If you must, fear the unexploded.”

In her poems and plays, Suheir Hammad blends the stories and sounds of her Palestinian-American heritage with the vibrant language of Brooklyn to create a passionately modern voice. Full bio »

Boston Event: World-renowned Palestinian artist Samia Halaby presents ‘The Art of Palestine’ on April 27, 2013

The Boston Palestine Film Festival announces that world-renowned Palestinian artist Samia Halaby will give a presentation entitled The Art of Palestine on April 27, 2013.  For information visit Boston Palestine Film Festival.


Why song performed by Palestinian Arab Idol struck a chord with millions of viewers – English translation of lyrics included

In the song that qualified him for the Arab Idol competition, Palestinian singer Muhammad Assaf  from Gaza city sang ‘ya tair altayer’ flying bird.  This national song struck a chord with Palestinians and Arabs everywhere and the original video clip from the Arab Idol competition has gone viral with over a million viewers.  A new clip has just been posted on youtube with images of the Palestinian cities Assaf sang for (see new video below).  Assaf told reporters that he sees no line between his art and being patriotic.  He is right.  His song expresses a Palestinian wish for freedom and for the ability to see loved ones in other villages that are now no longer accessible.  It is a reminder that even though Palestinians are confined within their bantustans and behind Israel’s big walls and towers, they haven’t given up on the dream that one day they too will fly like a bird and see their homes,  villages and loved ones.

Oh flying bird

Going to my home

My eyes follow you

And God’s eyes protect you

Oh you traveller

I am so jealous

Palestine my homeland

She is beautiful praise be to God

Go by Safed

Go by Tabariyyah

Pass by Acre and Haifa

And say hello to the sea

Don’t forget Nazareth

This Arab fortress

And give Bisan the good news

Her people will return

My people on this land

Stood tall

History is proud of us

And history’s back was bent

From all the pain we suffered

But we are patient

Go to Gaza

And Kiss its soil

Her people are dignified

Her men are mighty

And go to Jerusalem

The capital

Al Aqsa its landmark

Inshallah God willing

We will gather there

Oh flying bird

Going to my home

My eyes follow you

And God’s eyes protect you

Oh you traveller

I am so jealous

Palestine my homeland

She is beautiful

Praise be to God

Ma’an: Palestinian Arab Idol finalist says Issawi an inspiration

Published today (updated) 22/04/2013 21:09
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Muhammad Assaf, a Palestinian finalist in the TV singing contest Arab Idol, says he is inspired by long-term hunger striker Samer Issawi and would trade winning the competition for the prisoner’s freedom.

“I am conveying Palestine’s message to the world, and if I had to choose between winning the Arab Idol title and the freedom of Samer Issawi, I would choose freedom for the Palestinian hero whose steadfastness is peerless and I can’t compare myself to it,” Assaf told Ma’an.

Speaking from Beirut, the singer from Gaza City said that he considers himself an “ambassador of Palestinian art,” who wants to convey a positive image of Palestinians, despite Israeli occupation and oppression.

Arab audiences are happy to see a Palestinian singing different genres of music rather than just patriotic songs, he said, adding that he has been receiving support from his fans in the Arab world.

Assaf says he has been moved by the plight of Palestinian prisoners, especially Samer Issawi who has been on hunger strike in Israeli detention for 265 days.

“Issawi has provided a model in the struggle which is too great to be imitated by artists, despite the fact that art has an element of resistance as it can deliver the message of a people under occupation to the whole world.”

“I can’t differentiate between my art and my patriotic attitude,” he added.

Assaf qualified on Friday for the final of MBC’s popular singing competition Arab Idol.

This article appeared in Ma’an News

Palestine on Screen—Why You Must See “Inch’Allah”

By SCOTT MCCONNELL • April 15, 2013, 12:24 PM

The American Conservative 

Inch’Allah,” Anais Barbeau-Lavalette’s feature about Israel-Palestine, may be the strongest effort yet to convey the emotions of the supercharged struggle over land and dignity in the present period. For nearly a half-century, those who wanted justice in Palestine hoped that some representation of their narrative could reach the screen. They lived in the shadow, of course, of the epochal power of  “Exodus,” probably the most effective propaganda film in world history.  A great many years ago I recall Andrew Sarris telling a Columbia film class that the Palestinians were enthused when Jean-Luc Godard got funding to make a movie about their struggle, but were disappointed by the results.  What they had in mind was something like a modern western, with the fedayeen in the role of heroic good guys, a project which was never really in the French auteur’s wheelhouse.

Numerous films have sought to convey  something of the moral ambiguity of the struggle, including Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.” I haven’t seen Julian Schnabel’s “Miral,” based on the novel/memoir by Rula Jabreal, the story of an orphanage for Palestinian  girls whose parents were killed at Deir Yassin.  Many had high hopes for the film, perhaps because of the widely acknowledged talent, warmth, and celebrity of Schnabel, but for one reason or another the movie never really took off.

“Inch’Allah” can’t boast the star power of Jean-Luc Godard or Julian Schnabel; its director, Barbeau-Lavalette, is young and highly regarded in the Quebec film world, but not any sort of household name. But her movie deserves the hopes and access to screens granted to “Miral,” and more. It is a tough, gritty, and intense portrayal of Palestinian life under the occupation and the moral dilemmas faced by those—like the Canadian doctor played by the gorgeous Evelyne Brochu—who get involved trying to help them. The Palestinians, three generations ago a rural and pacific people, have been ghettoized and hardened. More than any movie I’ve seen, “Inch’Allah” conveys the something of the feel of Palestinian life, sarcastic and bitter in the younger generations, old-fashioned in the older ones, trying cope under a system of domination and control far more sophisticated than anything South Africans could dream up.  Read more 

Palestinian singer from Gaza qualifies for Arab Idol final

Palestinian singer from Gaza city Muhammad Assaf is one of 12 Arab singers who have made it into the final round of MBC’s popular singing competition Arab Idol performing the Palestinian song ‘Ya Teir el-Tayir’, ‘Oh Flying Bird’. Video of his performance  (below) has gone viral with over one million viewers.

A Museum for Palestine

Lucy Rees Art

On March 20, the Welfare Association, a not-for-profit organization that provides development and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, held an evening event to introduce the Palestinian Museum to the arts community and international press who were in Dubai for the annual Art Dubai fair. Hosted by the chairman of the Palestinian Museum Task Force, Omar Al-Qattan, and the museum director, Jack Persekian, the reception revealed the museum’s ambitions and plans for construction beginning in April 2013.

The building, designed by the Dublin-based architects Heneghan Peng – who also designed the new Grand Museum of Egypt in Cairo – is a modern structure inspired by the terraces of Birzeit. To be constructed in two phases, the first phase of 3000 square metres will cost approximately $11 million and be completed by 2014. The second phase to be completed within 10 years will expand the museum to 9000 square metres.

Lucy Rees: How…

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Seductively swaying Carmen the Gypsy Danced to a Palestinian Orchestra in Bethlehem

“With our music we represent Palestine. We say out loud the name of the country that many decided to deny its existence. The world thinks we don’t love life, but we do. We love life, music and we serve our country with our instruments.”

By: Malak Hasan

Palestine News & Information Agency – WAFA

BETHLEHEM, April 18, 2013 (WAFA) – Seductively swaying in her red dress wrapped around her slender body and rather dark hair carelessly resting on her pale shoulders, Carmen the Spanish gypsy emerged from Georges Bizet’s 1875 Opera Carmen to dance and sing about love accompanied by the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) orchestra performed in the city of Bethlehem on Saturday.

Once the music began, the audience was captivated in the melodies of the violin, cello, flute, bass and drums played by young Palestinian and international musicians, and the Swiss singers whose voices brought closer the burning story of Carmen and her jealous lover, Don Jose.

Religion, country of origin, or language, all didn’t matter as the audience who was watching Opera Carmen only came for one reason: to witness the power of music in bringing together two different worlds and cultures on one stage.

With the Palestinian red and white kuffiya, the national scarf and head cover, resting on the shoulders of the Swiss St Michel Choir and the black kuffiya on the shoulders of some Palestinian musicians, the act was not only a celebration of the western and eastern harmony, art and music, but an expression of resistance and solidarity with Palestine.

While Carmen sang with her velvety voice, director and choir conductor, Philippe Savoy, explained, his enthusiasm evident, “We chose the red and white scarf because it carries the colors of the Swiss flag.”

The story of Carmen, which was originally written in French, doesn’t relate to the Palestinian people in the sense of the word. It is the story of a young Spanish woman who works in a cigar factory and dies at the hands of her rejected lover.

 Academic director of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, Michele Cantoni, who looked very calm yet eager before the performance, said “the significance of the act is to mainly show the quality of playing, teaching and talents here in Palestine.”

It wasn’t only to present the unique potentials of the young Palestinian musicians who try to live a normal life in abnormal conditions but also, says Cantoni, “to show this picture to those abroad who think Palestinians are different than any other people whereas they have the same kind of humanity, sensitivity and the same kind of capability, but unfortunately a certain kind of propaganda convinced the world that this is not the case.”

It is not always that an opera is performed in Palestine and this is exactly why such an act was well received. Even though the story and the language were foreign, it didn’t stop the audience at the Solomon Pools’ Convention Center from enjoying the fine act.

Nadin Baboun, a violinist with the ESNCM orchestra, said: “Everyone understands the language of the music. You don’t have to be a musician to sense the love, suspense, romance and drama.”

She explained, “With our music we represent Palestine. We say out loud the name of the country that many decided to deny its existence. The world thinks we don’t love life, but we do. We love life, music and we serve our country with our instruments.”

With words sang in broken Arabic, the St Michel choir closed their performance singing “Hadi Ard Jdudi… Filistinu, Filistinu” (This is the land of my ancestors… Palestine, Palestine); asserting in their own artistic way the Palestinian people’s right to live in their homeland and the land of their ancestors.


This article first appeared here 

Palestinian-American composer and conductor George Bisharat and the Oakland East Bay Symphony in “Ya Way Li”

IMEU, APR 17, 2013 


The exile, fear and frustration of Palestinians expelled from their homeland will be brought to life through John Bisharat’s composed autobiography “Ya Way Li.” The piece, which is debuting April 20 with the Oakland East Bay Symphony in California, is part of the program, “Notes from the Middle East,” which brings together viewpoints of Palestinians, Egyptians and Israelis through music.

According to Bisharat, a Palestinian-American composer and conductor, “The piece tells the story of the fear and heartbreak my father, uncles and aunt endured during their struggle of being expelled from their homeland.” Bisharat’s uncle Emile wrote the poem “Ya Way Li” in Arabic and Bisharat composed the music with singers, percussionists and instrumentalists. “The text specifically reveals the Palestinian perspective. One of the lines is ‘and here I am a stranger in exile with no hope of ever returning to my origin,'” explains Bisharat. “This speaks to the issues of the right to return and the military occupation.”

The zourna, a woodwind instrument that plays three notes, is featured in the piece and was used by Bisharat’s father and uncles to gather their children. “It was a calling together of the family. It’s a personal note, and I decided to start and end the piece with it. It’s kind of the bookends to the piece.”

In addition to the instruments used in this piece, foot-stomping is also incorporated. The entire orchestra stomps their feet in unison to symbolize the frustration of the Palestinians. “There’s so much frustration, resentment and fear in the piece. It’s kind of a dark piece because it’s not a happy situation by any means. But it speaks to the fear and insecurity faced by Palestinian families, including my own.”

Bisharat created this music specifically for the program. He has written other Arabic music and enjoys working with other composers and musicians. “I love the idea of someone else improvising in a framework I have worked out as a composer and leaving a slot open for improvisation. You’ll also end up with something that is bigger and greater than what you would be able to do as your own. These musicians are bringing their own life experiences in every note they play.”

Born in Los Angeles, Bisharat’s mother introduced him to music. He attended UCLA’s Professional Designation in Film Scoring program and graduated in 1986, and has been making music ever since.

Bisharat has conducted The London Symphony Orchestra and The National Symphony Orchestra, among other international engagements.

Bisharat derives from a musically savvy family. Several of his family members are different types of artists. His brother and sister are both professional musicians and one of his uncles, aside from being a psychiatrist, was a violin crafter and another uncle played the flute. Bisharat’s wife is world-renowned concert pianist Louise Thomas. “I was lucky, I guess, to be born into a family of such talented, educated and artistic people, very warm and loving people.”

Read this article and much more on The Institute for Middle East Understanding website which offers journalists and editors quick access to information about Palestine and the Palestinians, as well as expert sources — both in the U.S. and in the Middle East. Read the IMEU Background Briefings. Contact IMEU for story assistance. Sign up for IMEU e-briefings.

Resilience and Light: Contemporary Palestinian Art